Busted Halo

Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft tries to balance her traditional Mexican-American cultural heritage and Catholic identity, personified by her grandmother La Lupe, with her roles as a young wife and mother.

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July 14th, 2010

LaLupe.wedding.INSIDEEverything seemed to be going according to plan.  La Lupe’s plan for my life was chugging along without a hitch.

I got through high school without any problems.  I started college.  I graduated from college.  I still went to Mass.  I still spoke Spanish.  After graduation I went to work at a Catholic Worker House.  She was proud of me and was always very vocal about it.

I had taken a pretty different path from most of my cousins and she was happy about it.  Most of my cousins graduated from high school, some went on to college, most left the Church.  Children and marriage did not follow any particular order.

I think what makes La Lupe proudest of me, though, is that I am still Catholic and faithful.  She can talk to me about homilies she heard and about La Virgencita.  She can’t do this with many people in my family.  They either don’t listen or tell her that she shouldn’t worship Mary.  We’re able to connect on a deeper faith level.

Up to this point our relationship had carried on without any hiccups.  I never worried about telling her anything and I never felt like I needed …

July 8th, 2010

interfaith-apt-flashIt would only make sense for me, the Jewish girl who blogs on Busted Halo, to find two roommates — one Catholic, one a semi-observant Jew — to move in with. The beautiful part about it is my getting new material for the site.

When it was decided the three of us would find a place together, it was no question we would get along. We’re all in the same industry, have mutual friends, same crazy schedules (3 am work hours) and so on. But what happens if one eats bacon and leaves the lard out all over the kitchen table? And the other gets annoyed about having the lights on all night because of Shabbat.

“Would Annie get mad at me if I asked her if she eats bacon?” Farrah asked. “I hate bacon. It makes me throw up. And it’s not just a Jewish thing. I just hate bacon.”

“What do I need to know about Shabbat? I’ve been meaning to ask about that light thing.” Annie says. “I remember in college, the people across the street would ask us to turn the light on for them.”

So here goes some serious Jewish-Catholic dialogue. And by serious, I …

July 4th, 2010

In 1630, a ship named the Arbella left England bound for the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  On board the ship were religious dissidents who wanted to reform the Church of England by creating a new more purified community… otherwise known as Puritans.

Before the boat landed, Governor John Winthrop gave a sermon entitled “A Model of Christian Charity.”  When he gave this sermon, he wanted to remind the people on board of why they were traveling. And in so doing, he established one of the central ideas about the meaning of this new land that would be passed down for generations.  He said to these early colonists:

For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill.  The eyes of all people are upon us.  So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken… we shall be made a story and a by-word throughout the world.  We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God… We shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us… til we be consumed out of …

July 1st, 2010

As many of you know, I am from the great state of New Jersey.  And when I share that with people I have met at my current assignment in Austin, Texas, one of the things I have been frequently been told is that I don’t SOUND like I am from New Jersey.  Which I understand… in the many years I have spent living away from the land of my birth, I have come to appreciate that the window most people view my home state either has involves Tony_FrankTony Soprano or someone named Snooki (whom I have since learned is actually from Marlboro, New York).

Having grown up in a country-suburban environment, I was largely insulated from incorporating into my speech the verbal-stylings that Frank Sinatra helped make famous.  Still, there are times when my cultural origin sometimes slips out.  It happens when I’m in a Starbucks and I order a cup of CAW-fee.  It also happens when I get mad; one of the many wonderful traits that people from my home state are known for is the frequent use of… ummm… colloquialisms.  Colorful colloquialisms.  Colloquialisms that would sound inappropriate coming from someone who dresses like I do on Sundays.  Yes, …

June 21st, 2010

The following is a reflection for the Feast Day of St. Thomas More, June 22.

In 1952, director Fred Zinnemann released a film that was eventually selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”  The movie was called High Noon, and it starred Gary Cooper as a retired lawman who was being hunted down by a criminal he once brought to justice.  In the film, Gary Cooper had to make the decision whether or not to stand up to this criminal and his posse… or leave town.  While everyone in the town begged him to do the “smart” thing and leave, Gary Cooper decided to stay and face the bad guys in a gun battle to the death.

MFASNow, why am I talking about a 50s western?  Because in 1966, the same director released a movie that would not only win him an Oscar for Best Director, it would win Best Picture.  The film was called A Man For All Seasons and it was based on the life on the saint whose feast we celebrate today: Thomas More.  Much like Gary Cooper’s character in High

June 19th, 2010

VV-fathersday100-flashMan-bashing has become a sport.  And in recent weeks, one study even questioned whether fathers are necessary for raising kids at all.  So perhaps it’s no surprise that fewer people think celebrating Father’s Day is as important as celebrating Mother’s Day, according to a Rasmussen poll.

June 20, 2010 is the 100th anniversary of Father’s Day. Let’s take a moment to celebrate fathers — and men who act with self-control and responsibility generally.

There are nearly 70 million fathers in the U.S., and more than 30 million have kids under the age of 18, according to the U.S. Census.
Mr. Mom is a reality for a quarter of all families with young children: Some 24 percent of the nation’s 11.2 million preschool-age children with a working mom are regularly cared for by dad during mom’s working hours, according to the Census. An estimated 158,000 men are stay-at-home dads whose wives support the family financially.
Dads are spending more time with their kids (although still not as much as Mom)…:Fathers with children aged 3 to 5 in the home read to them 6 times a week on average, compared to almost 7 times per week

June 17th, 2010

VV-contagious-virtues-flashWe generally understand how a virus or flu spreads: I’m sick and I shake hands with you. Then, you touch your nose and… oops, now you’re sick, too. Then you kiss your husband and… oops, now he’s sick, too. And so on. But in recent years, social scientists have begun to consider whether behaviors and character traits can spread in a similar way. Are vices and virtues socially contagious?

A while back, we learned that obesity is contagious: Researchers Nicholas Christakis, a medical sociologist, and James Fowler, a political science professor, found that we’re more likely to gain weight ourselves if our family and friends gain weight. Similarly, we’re more likely to succeed in losing weight if others are trying to do the same.

Then, the same team of researchers found that loneliness might be similarly socially contagious, as could happiness.

The latest from this pair is the finding that acts of kindness can spread rapidly through society, too, giving new power to the idea of “paying it forward” in generosity.

According to WiredScience:

In a game where selfishness made more sense than cooperation, acts of giving were “tripled over the course of the experiment by …

June 1st, 2010

monica-sexcity-flashEveryone who knows me, knows I am a huge fan of Sex and the City. Carrie Bradshaw, NYC columnist with her funky outfits, happens to be my role model. And although I love the show, and liked the movie, I thought a sequel would be a bad, if not a suicidal, idea for the name. But once I found out the ladies will be in Abu Dhabi, I was excited to see what four City girls would be doing in what they call the “New” Middle East.

I’m not going to lie. The first half of the movie, with the Middle Eastern-inspired outfits and scenery made me want to take a trip to this paradise hosted somewhere between dry lands, poverty and political warfare. I even laughed when Charlotte used her maiden name afraid her Jewish name might cause trouble there. I thought to myself if I would do the same. But then things made a turn for the worse. Caution: Scene Spoiler. Samantha got arrested for kissing on the beach, then she wore shorts out in the market where religious men snared at her, and then she dropped her purse filled with condoms and then shoved the condoms …

May 26th, 2010

Icon-PentecostI was working on my homily that I would be giving on Pentecost Sunday and doing what I usually do when I am preparing homilies… procrastinating on the Internet.  So while browsing Busted Halo’s offerings, I noticed that fellow blogger Monica Rozenfeld posted something on the Jewish festival of Shavuot.

As I’ve mentioned before, this past summer I worked as a chaplain in a New York hospital along side two rabbinical students.  Having that experience gave me an even deeper appreciation for just how Jewish our Christian faith really is, especially the Catholic faith.  All of this makes sense if you think about it… but, truth be told, until my theological studies and my experience this summer, I hadn’t really thought about it.

For example, our Eucharistic celebration is a direct outgrowth of the temple sacrifices performed at the Jerusalem temple in ancient Israel.  The baldacchino seen in many pre-Vatican II churches (most notably in St. Peter’s Basilica) is a direct tie to the tent the ancient Israelites used to carry around the Ark of the Covenant.  And when the Greeks wanted to translate the festival of Shavuot into their language, they called it Pentecost.

Shavuot is a festival …

May 3rd, 2010

You know, when I decided to become a priest, there was one big thing I was really struggling with… one thing that I was really going to miss.  Because in my past life, there was something that I really liked to do… and when I looked at the job description of a priest, I realized that my days of doing this one thing were over.

Watching Meet The Press on Sunday mornings.

Seriously… there was nothing better than waking up late on a Sunday morning, grabbing a cup of coffee and a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich from Dunkin Donuts, and sitting down to watch the weekly political boxing match. And of course, I was usually far from being a passive watcher of the program.  I have been known to hold my fair share of political opinions from time to time (ahem)… and when someone on the screen would say something that I disagreed with, I would never hesitate to express those opinions to the television in a manner so that the people inside the television set could hear me.  Probably in the same way most of the Texas fans in this room would scream at the television when Oklahoma …

April 29th, 2010

It’s really cool for me, as someone who has spent so much time interviewing people of the Jewish faith, to remove myself and get to know more about other faiths – like Islam.

I recently read a book review for Marnia Lazreg’s Questioning the Veil: Open Letters to Muslim Women making the case for Muslim women to remove their headscarves. I found this fascinating that a Muslim woman would tell others to just stop wearing the veil. As someone who didn’t know much about veiling, or covering, I assumed the veil was a heavy symbol of showing faith in G-d. Marnia has told me this is what many women believe, even those who wear the veil, but it is not. In her research, she attempts to prove the veil is a man-made tradition in order to sustain inequality of man and woman, and that the interpretation of veil is falsely interpreted as a literal veil, and not what its intention is which is to protect oneself, truly meaning “guarding” oneself; not hiding.

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I went ahead and asked other Muslim women how they feel about Marnia’s argument. Several women felt strong in their conviction that they are wearing the veil for …

April 29th, 2010

Spirituality-@-SXSW

Fans of Leonard Nimoy have Star Trek Conventions.  Baseball historians have trading card conventions.  White people who don’t like paying taxes have tea parties.  And hipsters from Generations X-through-Y have South By Southwest.

As I prepare to leave my thirties, as I continue towards a horizon that is increasingly influenced by the artist-formerly-known-as Joseph Ratzinger and less so by Quentin Tarantino… and as I find myself wondering just how much the Venn Diagrams intersect the worlds of secular society and faith overlap, I decided to try an experiment: I would wear my clerics at South By Southwest film and music festival.

Before arriving in Austin to spend my pastoral year, I had to come up with a list of goals for my time here.  Among those on the list: the Austin City Limits music festival (check!), Mexican food (check!), and a University of Texas football tailgate party (check! check! check!).  But the other goal that I held for myself—a goal that was a little more consistent with my religious formation—was to more strongly develop my priestly identity.  So I figured that there would be few better places to explore what that would mean for me than at one of the …

March 30th, 2010

This homily was given on the Tuesday of Holy Week based on the Gospel reading for the day: Peter’s Denial of Jesus. The text can be read here.

A few days ago, I was talking on the phone with somebody who had told me once that a Catholic priest had abused him when he was a child.  He had just begun to get some peace about it, but all of the new allegations over the past few weeks in Ireland and Germany really kicked up these feelings again… because for him it wasn’t just the abuse, it was the cover up that happened at a larger level.  All of his anger and frustration at the Church came roaring back.  And as he spoke I was reminded of today’s Gospel reading.

Betrayal_PeterPeter’s denial of Jesus is a story that is contained in all four Gospels; scholars estimate that the Gospels were written sometime between 30 to 60 years after the death of Jesus.  But what is fascinating is that none of the gospels cover up this humongous failure of one of their leaders.  In fact, this flaw is brought to the forefront of the Gospels for all of the world …

March 24th, 2010

Taqwacore_Poster
So, what happens when a Catholic seminarian interviews the director of a documentary about Muslim Punks at the South By Southwest film festival? A pretty good conversation about the struggles of being Islamic in North America and the similar dynamics involved in different spiritual traditions it turns out! After the Austin premiere of Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam, filmmaker Omar Majeed and I discussed this lesser-known movement within the modern musical and cultural landscape as it traveled from the United States to Pakistan.

The video above was selected from clips of a 14 minute interview.
To view the first part of the full interview, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKLe7oQ4H6w.
To view the second part of the full interview, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZ-wBbs_SF4.

To learn more about the film and to see a preview, visit http://www.taqwacore.com. [Explicit language contained in trailer]…

January 26th, 2010

The following relates to my time as a hospital chaplain this past summer in New York.

You never know what is going to be on the other side of that door.  As a chaplain walking into the hospital room of a patient, there may be people who are anxiously awaiting surgery.  There may be people who are packing up after an overnight stay and are delighted to be heading home.  There may be people who were just told a few hours before that they only have weeks left to live.

One of the bigger jobs of the chaplain is to be empathetic with everyone on the other side of that door, to meet and encounter the feelings of the patients no matter where on the happy-or-sad scale, on the great-or-lousy continuum, on the joyous-or-defeated measuring stick they may land.  And it’s not as if you have a lot of time to prepare for this diversity when you walk in the door… the patient’s physical illness is immediately available to you on the chart you walk in with; the patient’s emotional state is most decidedly not.

So a tool we as chaplains-in-training were quickly introduced to as a means of establishing …

January 19th, 2010

The night before I left for seminary—my “last night” if you will—some friends were sitting on my front porch having some beers. We were joking around and doing what we all do best: busting on one another.  While everyone in the group was taking their fair share of sarcastic shrapnel, eventually the barrels were turned onto the topic of my impending celibacy with the comment; “Enjoy your last night… you have to turn in your ‘Man Card’ tomorrow.”  Zing!

I was reflecting on that moment while flipping the channels the other night.  The old television standby of a James Bond movie appeared on the television menu, one that happened to be one of my favorites: Casino Royale.  This film by far had the best acting and the best plot development of the Bond films; it also had one of the better 007s: Daniel Craig.

Daniel Craig’s Bond personified a more modern male ideal… an ideal regularly championed by any Maxim or FHM magazine. But watching this film also got me thinking how much this character—played by any actor—had been one of the major definitions of manhood I had growing up. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, I …

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